President Biden, House members among mourners for former Texas Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson

Jamie Stengle/The Associated Press | 1/11/2024, 6 p.m.
Members of Congress joined mourners in Dallas on Tuesday to remember former U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, a day after ...
Kirk Johnson touches the casket of his mother, former U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, during her funeral service on Tuesday, Jan. 9. Photo by Smiley N. P

DALLAS - Members of Congress joined mourners in Dallas on Tuesday to remember former U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, a day after President Joe Biden came to Texas to pay his respects to the trailblazing congresswoman.

“What a life that she lived,” U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the top House Democrat, told those attending her funeral at Concord Church in Dallas. “A life filled with loving her community. A life filled with leadership for the people. A life that left behind a lasting legacy of transformational change.”

Rep. Johnson

Rep. Johnson

Rep. Johnson, who died at age of 89 on Dec. 31, served in Congress for 30 years. On Monday, mourners streamed by as her body lay in state at Dallas’ Fair Park before a wake later that evening that was attended by President Biden.

Rep. Jeffries, who noted that more than 25 members of Congress were in attendance at the funeral, said that she served as a guiding force.

Rep. Johnson, who was the first registered nurse elected to Congress, helped bring hundreds of millions of federal dollars to the Dallas area and was the region’s most powerful Democrat. She had been the first Black chief psychiatric nurse at Dallas’ Veterans Affairs hospital. She also became the first Black woman to chair the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and she led the Congressional Black Caucus.

“A nurse by training, Congresswoman Johnson always used her position of leadership to bring healing and hope to the people she served,” Vice President Kamala Harris said in a video message played at the funeral.

Former President Bill Clinton also said in a video message that “the heat” never bothered Rep. Johnson. “She just stood up for what she thought was right,” Mr. Clinton said.

Born in Waco, she grew up in the segregated South. In 2019, Dallas’ once-segregated Union Station was renamed in her honor in 2019.

Rep. Johnson left office in January after repeatedly delaying her retirement.

Before Congress, she served in the Texas Legislature. Her family’s attorney has said

Rep. Johnson died from an infection she developed at a rehabilitation facility following back surgery in the fall.

Les Weisbrod, her family’s attorney and Ms. Johnson’s longtime friend, said at a news conference that her death was caused by an infection in her spine that developed after she was left in her own feces at Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation following back surgery.

In a statement Thursday, Baylor Scott & White Health called Rep. Johnson “an inspiration to all,” and said they are committed to working with her family and attorney.

Mr. Weisbrod said it’s a case that Rep. Johnson herself had asked him to pursue weeks ago after she began suffering from complications from the infection.

“I thought it was going to be a case for the pain that she went through and the additional procedures she went through and the medical bills and that she was going to recover,” he said. “And so it’s very distressing for me that she succumbed to this.”

On Sept. 21, her son found her lying in her own feces and urine at the rehabilitation facility, according to a news release from Mr. Weisbrod’s office. Kirk Johnson said at the news conference Thursday that he had gone to the facility after his mother called to tell him she was getting no response from the call button. He said he arrived about 10 minutes later.

“Deplorable,” he said. “She was being unattended to. She was screaming out in pain and for help.”

The news release said when Mr. Johnson couldn’t find any nurses on the floor, he went to the administration office and the CEO accompanied him to his mother’s room. When they arrived, staff members were cleaning up the feces.

The news release said Rep. Johnson’s orthopedic surgeon noted in his record that Rep. Johnson had some complications after the operation after being found in bed sitting in her own feces and three days later she began having “copious purulent drainage from the low lumbar incision.”

The surgeon performed a surgical repair on the infected wound, and she was moved

to a skilled nursing facility on Oct. 18 and went home on hospice care in mid-December, the news release said.

The news release said that laboratory wound culture reports showed organisms directly related to feces.